Creating a definition to something as broad and complex as humanities and Humanities can be a daunting task. After talking to several Humesters about how to conquer this difficult task, I decided I’d try listing some words that initially popped into my head. I used those words as a starting point to launch my working definitions. Throughout these definitions you’ll find references from each unit, several lectures, and pictures from my notes.
On a very basic level, humanities studies the human condition and how it evolves throughout time. By reading and discussing texts from all kinds of different perspectives, Humanities paints a picture to better our understanding of problems within society.
Starting from Professor Quillen’s Unit, we focused mainly on the background and causes for racial divide. We asked a lot of questions regarding humanity itself, including, “What does it mean to be human?, Who is human?, What differentiates between the higher and lower classes of society?” Before fixing the persistent forms of oppression that have always been present in society, one must first understand the roots that creates divide. An answer that repeatedly popped up was one’s ability to reason. Human beings differ from animals in that humans have the capacity to reason, meaning they have freewill. This was used as justification for slavery; Black people don’t have the capacity to reason, therefore, they are animals that must submit to the everyone else’s commands. If they did have reason, why do they choose to be slaves?
This idea of man-made hierarchy takes us into Professor Tamura’s Unit, which talked about the inherent evil that sparks historical genocides. How could “ordinary” people in a different time period have the ability to commit some of the most brutal acts of violence known to man? Another key focus was the power of media, especially when dealing with graphic images of terror. Events only became real once they received attention from the media, regardless of its brutalness. Otherwise, people suffer in silence. The Rwandan genocide was a prime example of this. Even though people in the Rwandan genocide died at a rate 3 times as fast as the Holocaust, it had gotten very little attention in the Western World merely because it was a hastle for the U.S. to get involved. We can draw a connection from this to Unit 1’s idea of humanity. Since we’re all human beings, Humanities tries to understand how people justify their brutal actions.
Professor Wills’ Unit 4 relates these ideas to the Civil Rights Movement as we use John Lewis’ book, March: Book Two as a guiding point to analyze racism in America. In one of her plenary lectures, Professor Wills split us into groups to interpret different Bible passages. After coming together and discussing our interpretations, Wills revealed to us that some of these verses were actually used to justify slavery. Racist, white, religious leaders twisted words from the Bible to rationalize racism. This just shows to what extent people will go to believe in the morality of their immoral actions.
In Professor Robb’s unit, we redefined some intrinsic conceptual schemes that make up our view on humanity. Professor Thompson from the Physics department came in to do a lecture about early astronomical discoveries. In her lecture, she talks about huge conceptual schemes that experienced a full paradigm shift. For example, Ancient Greeks once believed that Earth didn’t move. The study of humanities is made up of these conceptual schemes, and Professor Robb encouraged us to question the “truth.
Humanities uses a wide range of mediums to give us a holistic view on the study of humanities. In using comics, speeches, poems, books, paintings, photographs, etc., Humanities teaches us about problems in our society by presenting different perspectives.
From Professor Quillen’s first unit, we are introduced with ideas that were revolutionary in their time. For example, Locke believed that parental power is greater than paternal power. He’s acknowledging the presence of the female sex, which was a revolutionary idea back then. Women weren’t equal to men, but here, Locke is recognizing that there is at least some power in women. Professor Quillen described this as “making a crack in the door that is equality amongst women.” These ideas are ones that’ll spark a revolution.
Unit 2 was filled with definitions of revolution. Professor Robb chose to focus on science more than other Professors. Professor Thompson from the Physics department talked about revolution in terms of physical revolutions. In this unit, we read Lapham’s Quarterly on the different revolutions throughout history. In one instance, Mao Zedong defined revolution as an act of violence by which one class overthrows another. Revolution was also defined as a peaceful restoration. We can see the different interpretations of the word revolution and how each interpretation affected the society it pertained to.
Professor Tamura’s unit shifted the light of revolution to genocide and uprisings that root from political discourse. Specifically speaking of the Rwandan genocide, despite the minor physical distinctions, the Hutu’s still felt the need to start a violent uprising against the Tutsi’s. This was an example of a revolution, in the most violent sense of the word. In this case, we witnessed a revolution that was sparked by the disparity between two social classes. This had a similar theme with Professor Wills’ unit about the Civil Rights Movement.
The Civil Rights Movement was a revolution that started to allow equality between black and white people. Somewhat similar to the Rwandan genocide, this revolution started from one group of people oppressing another group of people for no reason other than the color of their skin. When taking into account all of these examples of revolutions, we can start to form a definition. In the context of humanities, a revolution is a social movement with the intention of altering society to either increase or decrease a group’s power.